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Daughters of the King

Women and the Synagogue (A Survey of History, Halakhah, and Contemporary Realities)

Edited by Rivkah Haut and Rabbi Susan Grossman

Publication Year: 2010

Daughters of the King explores women's involvement in and around the synagogue from its antecedents in the bibical period to contemporary times. The contributors to the book, including Susan Grossman, Rivka Haut, Tikva Frymer-Kensky, Judith Hauptman, Paula Hyman, and others, represent an interdisciplinary approach to the subject, drawing from history, anthropology, sociology, women's studies, Jewish law, the Bible, and rabbinic thought.

Published by: Jewish Publication Society

Title Page

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CONTENTS

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pp. 10-13

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. 14-17

NOTE ON TRANSLITERATION

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pp. 18-19

ABBREVIATIONS

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pp. 20-21

PREFACE: DAUGHTERS OF THE KING

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pp. 22-31

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INTRODUCTION: WOMEN AND THE SYNAGOGUE

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pp. 3-11

Synagogue. The word first brings to mind the Jewish house of worship. Actually, the word synagogue comes from the Greek synagogos, a house of assembly.1 Indeed, the most common word used for synagogue in Hebrew is not beit tefillah, house of prayer, but beit knesset (also originally from the Greek), house of assembly.2 Throughout the ages, the synagogue has been...

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One: HISTORY

To know oneself is to know the history of one's people. For the Jewish people, especially, this has meant turning back to history and tradition to establish present and future practice. Each of the articles in this section focuses on a significant period in the development of the synagogue...

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WOMEN AND THE JERUSALEM TEMPLE

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pp. 15-37

The idea that the Temple and its laws could exert influence over Jewish practice outside its physical, or temporal, boundaries began generations before its destruction, in the democratizing efforts of the Pharisees. The Pharisees applied the biblical commandment "You shall be a kingdom of priests ... " (Exod. 19:6) to (lay) Israelite Jews, i.e., not only...

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WOMEN AND THE ANCIENT SYNAGOGUE

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pp. 39-49

In various contexts, the sources repeatedly mention that the women in the community functioned in the synagogue and found their place within it. According to the Book of Acts, even while the Temple stood, Paul, when he was still called Saul of Tarsus, expected to find women among the congregants when he anticipated visiting the synagogue in Damascus...

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WOMEN AND THE SYNAGOGUE IN MEDIEVAL CAIRO

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pp. 51-57

During the Middle Ages, more than half the world's Jewish population was under the rule of Islam. The centers of Jewish learning and culture were situated in Moslem countries and were greatly influenced by classical Islamic culture, which had rediscovered the Greek philosophers and introduced new styles of poetry and literature. During the classical period...

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WOMEN'S VOICES, WOMEN'S PRAYERS: WOMEN IN THE EUROPEAN SYNAGOGUES OF THE MIDDLE AGES

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pp. 59-71

"A Jew made a bet with his friend that his wife would obey him in all things. He went to her and said, 'Take off your veil: She did it. He said to her, 'Call the cat and place it on your knees.' She did it. He said to her, 'Tie the cat with your veil.' And she did it. If he had ordered her to go and buy food for the house, that is reasonable, and if she did it, it would not have...

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TEḤINES: A BRIEF SURVEY OF WOMEN'S PRAYERS

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pp. 73-83

Teḥines are often referred to as supplicatory or devotional prayers. The concept of a prayer of this type is biblical in origin and hearkens back to Moses' prayer in Deut. 3: 23: "I pleaded with the Lord at that time .... " I Moses used the word va-etḥanan, which is related to the word teḥines, to characterize his request. The earliest use of the term teḥines as a noun is...

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Two: HALAKHAH

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pp. 85-87

Classical halakhah (Jewish law) defined the aspirations and social roles of women and men, assigning separate roles to each. Today, all branches of Judaism are grappling with the tension between contemporary values and traditional observance, the acceptance of the ideals of equality and the tradition of role differentiation...

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ARE WOMEN OBLIGATED TO PRAY?

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pp. 89-101

One Friday evening, a large number of men came to evening services at their neighborhood Orthodox synagogue. Some of them stood in the empty women's section. Then three women came to attend services. Since, according to Orthodox practice, men and women cannot sit together in a synagogue, the men had to leave the women's section. While...

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PURITY AND PIETY: THE SEPARATION OF MENSTRUANTS FROM THE SANCTA

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pp. 103-115

Many Jews, both men and women, believe that menstruants are prohibited by Jewish law from touching a Torah scroll and participating in the synagogue prayer service. In this chapter, I briefly survey the tortuous history of this belief. For the sake of brevity, I present only the major evidence, reserving full discussion for another...

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MEḤITZAH: HALAKHIC DECISIONS AND POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES

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pp. 117-134

The separation of men and women in public places has a long and complicated history.1 Biblical stories of women as singers, dancers, and mourners attest to their presence at communal events.2 Other sources also indicate that women were participants at Temple public celebrations3 (see Grossman, pp. 19ff.). The subject of this chapter is not the question of...

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WOMEN'S PRAYER GROUPS AND THE ORTHODOX SYNAGOGUE

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pp. 135-157

Women's tefillah (prayer) groups, developed and organized by Orthodox women, have set the "Torah world" in turmoil. They have been discussed, and denounced, in virtually every major rabbinic journal and periodical,1 banned in sermons from the pulpits of major Orthodox synagogues, and proclaimed by rabbinic responsa to be against Jewish law. Yet they grow...

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WOMEN AND THE CONSERVATIVE SYNAGOGUE

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pp. 159-181

In the last two decades many women have begun to examine Jewish observances and texts from a fresh perspective. They note that Judaism, though ethically valid and spiritually satisfying, seems deficient when subjected to feminist criteria. Judaism appears to favor men. It imposes on them myriad ritual obligations that, although demanding, make it...

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LANGUAGE AND LITURGY

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pp. 183-202

The siddur (prayer book) is traditionally regarded as the mirror of the Jewish soul, a metaphorical reflection of the spiritual and historical development of the Jewish people, expressing the religious and ethical ideals, the trials and tribulations, the joys and sorrows, the hopes and aspirations of the Jews over more than three millennia. As Dr. Joseph H. Hertz, the...

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Three: CONTEMPORARY REALITIES

In the two articles by Susan Starr Sered and Rela Geffen Monson and the interview with the women of the Khoubian family, the impact of modernity on the role of women in the synagogue is explored. Sered and the Khoubians provide a glimpse into oriental Jewish culture. Significantly, both articles depict the richness of oriental women's spiritual experiences, a richness that, in many other...

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THE SYNAGOGUE AS A SACRED SPACE FOR THE ELDERLY ORIENTAL WOMEN OF JERUSALEM

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pp. 205-216

While the notion of setting aside certain space as "sacred" or "holy" may be universal,1 there is considerable variation in the location, the content, and the nature of the activities carried out in such spaces. Furthermore, even within one particular cultural context, different categories of people may have access to or make different uses of the various spaces that are...

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FROM PERSIA TO NEW YORK: AN INTERVIEW WITH THREE GENERATIONS OF IRANIAN WOMEN

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pp. 217-225

The maternal grandmother, Iran Ravaghi (80 years old), and her daughter (the Mother), Vaghar Khoubian (60 years old), grew up in Gulpaigan, a city in Southwestern Iran. Both eventually moved to Teheran. Parvin Khoubian, the granddaughter, was born in cosmopolitan Teheran and began attending college there before emigrating to the United States...

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THE IMPACT OF THE JEWISH WOMEN'S MOVEMENT ON THE AMERICAN SYNAGOGUE: 1972-1985

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pp. 227-236

In 1963, a relatively unkown Jewish woman named Betty Friedan launched what became the contemporary feminist movement with the publication of The Feminine Mystique.1 The National Organization for Women was formed in 1966 on a platform of political and social change. It was organized around small consciousness-raising groups, largely in response...

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PERSONAL VIGNETTES

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pp. 237-296

The personal vignettes that follow represent a wide range of perspectives on women's place in normative Judaism. We begin with two women discussing very different communities, who find value and satisfaction in the traditional roles they fill. Shoshana Gelerenter-Liebowitz tells of the value placed on women's prayer and candlelighting...

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LOOKING TO THE FUTURE: CONCLUSIONS

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pp. 297-305

In his insightful depiction and analysis of an American Orthodox synagogue of the early 1970s, the sociologist Samuel Heilman posits sexual segregation as a "symbolic absolute" for an Orthodox synagogue. It is men, he notes, who fulfill "public ritual requirements." Consequently, "even the space ... [of the synagogue] asserts public dependency...

GLOSSARY

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pp. 307-312

CONTRIBUTORS

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pp. 313-316

KEY SOURCES

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pp. 317-319

INDEX

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pp. 321-340


E-ISBN-13: 9780827609914
Print-ISBN-13: 9780827604414

Publication Year: 2010